The Evolution of Downforce: Five Star continues pushing the technology of Dirt Late Model racing forward with the latest iteration of its hugely successful MD3 nose
Throughout the history of Dirt Late Model racing, if there was a single identifying characteristic of these unique cars it would most likely be the slab-sided, wedge shaped bodies designed for ease of fabrication and simple aerodynamics.
But in the last few years the most distinguishing characteristic of a Dirt Late Model race car has probably become those incredible noses. Frankly, they can look a bit outlandish to the uninitiated with their wide fender flares rolled to create a ridge running up either side of the car. Other companies have made imitations, but that distinctive nose is the brainchild and hard work of Carl Schultz and Five Star Race Car Bodies .
That style of nose is called the MD3, and the latest version is known as the MD3 Evolution. The first two letters, by the way, stand for “maximum downforce” which is exactly what these noses create over the entire length of the car. Those rolled fenders are designed to help channel air over the top of the car and keep it from spilling off the sides where it will only create drag and no downforce. But there is much more to the MD3 Evolution then just those attention-grabbing fenders, and just as the Evolution name implies, it is the product of decades of development.
“The MD three nose may still be fairly new, but we can trace it all the way back to when we started making our ’92 Camaro nose for Dirt Late Model race cars, that’s how far back it goes,” explains Carl Schultz. “Before that, a lot of Dirt Late Model racers were using a molded plastic nose that was basically designed for pavement racing. The dimensions were different enough that it was causing a lot of trouble for them, so we just decided to make a version of our ’92 Camaro nose that was sized right to fit a dirt car and make their lives easier.
“That Camaro nose was recognizable as the same style as what you would see on the street car,” he adds. “But the rules were pretty loose, and 18 or 20 years ago we decided to make a nose strictly to help create downforce and didn’t worry about making it look like anything on a street car.
“And with that new nose we also made some molded fenders to go with it. At the time guys would just take a piece of plastic and bend it up and over to form a fender, and they got the nickname ‘floppers.’ They were just pieces of plastic that were flopping in the breeze, and they weren’t really doing a good job of what they were intended, so we made a molded plastic fender. In the beginning, that first-generation was just sort of a flap and didn’t have any shape to them.”
Schultz says over time racers realized that if they mounted the fenders so that it squeezed them up to put a little “hump” in them, it helped direct airflow to create a little more downforce. Technically, most sanctioning bodies had a rule for the Late Models that nothing could stick up above the fender, but it wasn’t strictly enforced. And it wasn’t too long before the rules were rewritten to allow a two-inch hump in the fenders.
“When they did that we retooled to make a new version of our fenders to take advantage of that,” Schultz says. “And then they made it three inches. Of course, they give you plus or minus one inch in tech, so our new stuff techs at four inches.”
Schultz says the design of the new MD3 Evolution nose comes from extensive aerodynamic research. It’s really difficult to gather accurate information in a wind tunnel because Dirt Late Models spend most of the time in the turns–when producing maximum downforce is most critical–sliding sideways. But Schultz says that Five Star used the information it learned producing and refining their asphalt oval track and drag racing bodies to develop the principals used in the MD3 line.
“We got the new MD3 Evolution nose done last fall, and we did a lot of track testing with some of the better drivers like Scott Bloomquist and Jimmy Mars that can really tell what a car is doing,” Schultz says. “And they both said it makes a noticeable difference in the front downforce.
“The problem with the current Late Model body in general is that it is very aerodynamic. That’s a good thing when you are running by yourself, but the bad news is when the car gets behind another in traffic the front end gets loose. So we focused a lot of our engineering on making the front end stick better when you are working through traffic.
“Every square inch of that front end has got aerodynamic features built into it,” Schultz continues. “Everything has a function. There is maybe a little bit of styling in the headlight area, but every other shape on that nose is there to help build in downforce.”
What’s interesting is Schultz admitted to us that he’s already actively working on the next version of the MD3 which should be even more advantageous to Dirt Late Model racers. He didn’t want to get too much into specifics but told us that he’s working on a flat fender for the right side of the car that will help balance downforce front to back.
“Everything we do is to help the car handle,” he says. “These cars have gigantic engines that make tons of power and sophisticated suspension packages that deliver lots of grip. They are so fast now it isn’t funny. So the only thing left now to help drivers control the car is aerodynamics. And it’s not just the nose we work on. It’s the whole car we look at. Anything we can do to help improve the car’s downforce, that’s what we’re looking at.”
Didn’t I see Somebody Else Selling MD3 too?
If you have a sharp eye, you may have noticed that both Five Star Race Car Bodies and Performance Bodies sell MD3 branded components. It turns out that one isn’t ripping off the other, the two companies actually have a great working relationship and share the MD3 lineup.
“Performance Bodies is a great partner for us,” Schultz explains. “We’ve been making plastic parts for them for years. Before the formation of the MD3 line, we used to make pieces for them from the same tooling–we’d just put their logo on it instead of ours. That created some confusion with the customers, they didn’t realize that the parts were the same. So we created the MD3 line that is the same brand for both of us.”
The moral of the story is if you are running any MD3 components and need replacement parts, you can go to either company and find stuff that will fit your race car.
Five Star Race Car Bodies / 262.877.2171 / FiveStarBodies.com